Date of Award

5-11-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Edward J. Friedman

Second Advisor

Kathryn Fuller-Seeley

Third Advisor

M. Lane Bruner

Fourth Advisor

Marian J. Meyers

Fifth Advisor

Alisa H. Perren

Abstract

This project combines elements of textual analysis, feminist criticism, and media reception studies to examine wedding-themed reality television programming. Drawing on feminist media studies, television studies, and new media studies, this project investigates identity construction through wedding-themed reality television in three case studies: the renegotiation of icons of traditional femininity on Say Yes to the Dress, the policing of female behavior and perceived unruliness through Bridezillas, and the depiction of female labor in celebrity culture through three weddings featured on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. These three case studies deal with unique yet ultimately interconnected themes of gender identity construction and management. I argue that post-feminist ideologies are instrumental in shaping the way that identity is constructed through advocating specific behaviors and shaming others in three key areas: hyper-consumerism, the pursuit of pseudo-celebrity status, and the reinforcement of traditional gender norms. These themes appear in varied forms and function in different ways across the three case studies. In addition, shaming is enacted in the programs and displayed in the audience response to those programs via social media in three ways: subtle discouragement, containment, and pseudo-resistance. This study begins with a close reading of the three television programs, followed by a reception study of the related conversations taking place on the social media platform Twitter to examine how the textual themes are being understood and discussed by viewers.

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